At the Sixth Annual Augustinian Gala, on April 27, we will be celebrating the service of four very special honorees: Fr. John Merkelis, O.S.A., Br. Jerome Sysko, O.S.A., and Augustinian Affiliates Tony and Phyllis Lauinger. Over the next three weeks we will be posting profiles of each of these honorees, and today we are very pleased to begin with the Former Prior of the Augustinian Health Care Community, Br. Jerome Sysko.
For those of you who will not be able to join us in celebrating these honorees, we ask that you consider taking out a congratulatory ad in our Program Book or making a Tribute Donation to honor one specific honoree. All Tribute Donations will be listed in our Program Book and on our website, following the Gala evening.
Br. Jerome Sysko, O.S.A.
Br. Sysko, embodies the Augustinian virtue of Caritas, the selfless love and service for our neighbors. Br. Jerome has heeded his call to love at whatever level the Order demanded, from maintenance and cooking at St. Rita High School to the Novice Director for the Augustinians of Poland.
He has served Augustinians from their first entrance—as Assistant Director of the Pre-Novitiate at Villanova—to their final days—as the founder and Prior of the Augustinian Health Care Community for the retired and infirm in Crown Point, IN.
When the friars needed new habits, he was their tailor. When the imprisoned were in need of consolation, he was their minister.
A Chicago native, Br. Jerome entered Augustinian formation after graduating from St. Philip Basilica High School. Over the next three years he moved between three different Augustinian communities before, providing service to the Order prior to his entrance into the Novitiate.
He professed vows to the Order in 1965, after which he was assigned to cook in the cafeteria of St. Rita High School. In 1970, he was moved to Augustinian Academy, St. Louis, MO, where he was Cafeteria Manager. Two years later, he was transferred to Immaculate Conception/St. Henry Parish, St. Louis. There he did parish ministry, taught Religious Education to First Grade students and served as a member of the Novitiate Formation Team.
He was assigned in 1979 to St. Mary Parish, Rockford, IL, where he did parish ministry and served as Procurator. He moved in 1982 to the Augustinian Midwest Priory, at Villanova University, and served as Assistant Director of the Augustinian Pre-Novitiate Program. In 1989, he assumed the role of Formation Director.
“Br. Jerome is all heart! What you see is what you get...a very caring and loving Brother!” said Fr. Bernie Scianna, O.S.A.. “He was one of my Director's in Formation at Villanova, where we had many wonderful times and a few challenging ones...I guess I wasn't always an easy one to form!”
Br. Jerome had organized several projects to support the revitalization of the Augustinian Province of Poland. In 1990 he was placed on loan to the Province of Poland by the Prior General. Four jurisdictions of the Order collaborated in sponsoring the ministry there in support of the Province of Poland. All income, after normal living expenses had been paid, went to support that Province.
In 1993 he went to Poland to serve as Director of Novices in Lomianki, near Warsaw. He returned to St. Matthew Parish in 1997, again devoting himself to parish ministry. In 2003 Br. Jerome was assigned for a fourth time to St. Rita High School and was named Campus Minister.
One of the most lasting legacies of Br. Jerome’s service to the Province will surely be his dedicated work in establishing the health care community of Bl. Stephen Bellesini Friary. The Bellesini Friary was formed in order to ensure that those friars in need of long-term health care and assisted living could still experience Augustinian community life. Br. Jerome served as Prior and caregiver for the elder friars from 2010 until June 30, 2017, when he resigned as Prior.
“Br. Jerome has always been willing to do what the Order needed, including an assignment to Poland to help re-establish the Order there," said Fr. Bernie. “For the last seven years, he was willing to take on the new ministry as the Prior of our Health Care Community where he cared for our sick and elderly and built a wonderful sense of community! He will be welcomed back soon to St Rita High School where he will assist part-time in the school and in the Shrine, particularly with the monthly novena.”